The Ministry of Health says it plans to hire 1500 medical personnel of which 50 percent of this will be nurses to help reduce shortage of staff in most health facilities across the country.
Principal Secretary in the ministry of health, McPhail Magwira, said this is response to the current increase in hospital staff sit-ins due to non payment of locum allowances.
On Monday health personnel at Chikwawa District Hospital laid down their tools demanding the transfer of the hospital accountant accusing him of mismanaging funds at the hospital and failing to pay them their locum allowances.
They have since resumed work after hospital administration sent the accountant on an emergency leave and promised to pay them the allowances in arrears.
This comes barely a month after nurses and midwives at Mwanza District Hospital staged a sit-in for similar reasons.
To Magwira, locum allowances were introduced due to shortage of staff. He added that MoH budget is highly affected by demands to pay locum allowances to personnel forced to over-work due to shortage of staff.
Locum allowances are paid at district level through Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT) fund.
“But the problem is that the demands are too high to the extent that they are affecting hospitals’ budget,” Magwira said.
Magwira urged Hospital Authorities to come up with proper rosters for members of staff to ensure that they minimise the amount of money spent on locum.
“For example, at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) they used to spend up to K16 million on locum every financial year but after reviewing the process they are now spending only K4 million, I urge others to emulate this,” he said.
In the just approved 2016/17 budget, MoH has been allocated K92 billion against last year’s K87 billion.
Speaking in an interview Tuesday, Spokesperson for Chikwawa District Hospital Settle Piriminta said the hospital is investigating other issues raised by the members of staff.
“We resolved the issue of locum allowances and agreed that we will be paying them in arrears, they think he is the one holding their locum allowances and we tried to make them understand the situation and asked them to resume their work as we investigate some of the issues they raised,” said Piriminta.
According to Piriminta, patients at the hospital were on Monday left un attended as only a skeleton of staff worked in the to emergencies ward.
In the 2015/16 financial year, Chikwawa District Hospital was allocated around K200 Million in ORT, according to Piriminta.
The funds are used for purchasing fuel for the hospital ambulances, maintenance, procuring of food staffs and cleaning materials, payment of support staff and locum allowances among other things.
Many hospitals have been having difficulties running their affairs due to poor funding.
Some medical staff at Mwanza District Hospital claimed the hospital was facing a lot of challenges such as shortage of staff, food shortages for patients, lack of basic nursing tools such as writing and cleaning materials.
Mchinji District Hospital Spokesperson Frank Banda was quoted in the media saying in the 2015/16 budget the hospital received K362 133 310 ($724266.62) leaving it with K214 941 608 ($429883) deficit.
The hospital was forced to slash food allocations from about K5 million ($10 000) per month to K3 million ($6000)
Nonm executive director Dorothy Ngoma called on the ministry to act quickly in resolving issues rocking the country’s health system.
According to Ngoma, the problem of not having enough resources on the ground is greatly affecting service delivery in the country’s health facilities and government must find ways of ensuring such institutions are prioritised even in the course of financial challenges.